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Pastor Glenn McDonald: Don't Panic

Want to know how to escape from quicksand?


Or survive a volcanic eruption?


Or jump from the roof of one tall building to another?


Then you need Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht’s one-of-a-kind book, The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook.  Back in 1999, the authors, having conjured up as many outrageous situations as they could imagine, interviewed experts to see what they would recommend.


That’s how a reader can learn important tips about how to escape a bear (hint: don’t try to climb a tree), how to survive a riot in a foreign country (be sure to walk, since running might attract snipers), and how to perform a tracheotomy (you don’t really want to know). 


My favorite entry is, “How to Win a Sword Fight.”  After teaching the fine points of thrusts and parries, the final piece of advice is, “Wait for your attacker to make a mistake.”  Right.


Just in case you’re thinking, “None of these situations will ever apply to me,” Piven and Borgenicht offer tips about surviving a plunging elevator – a subject that seems to come up with regularity for people who live and work at least a few floors above the ground.  For what it’s worth, jumping into the air at the last possible moment is not recommended.


The book not only sold 10 million copies, but launched a minor industry of “survival” products and services, as well as a pair of short-lived TV series.  Borgenicht and Piven eagerly cranked out a series of tongue-in-cheek sequels, including Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbooks for travel, parenting, college, dating, holidays, weddings, and (of course) golf. 


Last October they released their latest edition: how to survive the Apocalypse.  “Prepare for the end of civilization…and learn how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” 


Helpful sections include how to make your bunker feel like home, how to survive an alien invasion, how to defeat a robot uprising, and how to eat insects and rodents (we’re talking worst-case scenarios here).  The book ends with inspiring thoughts on “How to Rebuild a Utopian Society.”


Not surprisingly, the worst-case scenarios that we are most likely to experience in the next few weeks are not in any of those books. 


You’ve got just enough time to get to the airport, and your car won’t start.


Your sixth-grader approaches you at 9:00 pm and announces, “I just remembered that I have a school project due tomorrow morning.”


You have a crucial work-related meeting in a few hours, and now you’ve got food poisoning from last night’s sushi. 


What’s the most common piece of advice in the Worst-Case Scenario handbooks?  Don’t panic. That is wonderfully reminiscent of the most famous catchphrase associated with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Science writer Arthur C. Clarke suggested that those two words are surely the best advice anyone could give to humanity.


Perhaps that’s why the same counsel appears in virtually every book of the Bible.


What does it mean obey the New Testament’s injunction to “live by faith”?  What does faith look like?  What does faith feel like?


Here’s a great place to start:

Don’t panic.

Don’t freak out.

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t worry.

Don’t lose your grip.


That’s because you’re not in charge. 


And despite cherished assumptions to the contrary, there’s not a single scenario in which you will be in final control of anything that’s going to happen over the next 24 hours.


But here’s the wonderful news: God is. 


As Joshua stood trembling in his new role as the leader of God’s people – gazing across the Jordan River at the land that God had promised to that same fickle-hearted group – the Lord spoke to him clearly and directly: “Haven’t I commanded you?  Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged.  God, your God, is with you every step you take” (Joshua 1:9, The Message).   


The same assurances now belong to every follower of Jesus. 


There are no circumstances in which God’s presence and power will ever be absent.


Which is definitely worth remembering the next time you find yourself in a sword fight. 



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